C. Michael Patton, in an article called Beware of "Professional Weaker Brethren", says some important things about Christian liberty. He doesn't say everything that needs to be said (we may return to the issue in another post). But what he does say, does need to be said.
Here are some excerpts:
When grace and liberty clash with “scruples,” more often than not, unfortunately, the scruples win. Why? Because we are so quick to sacrifice our liberty for the sake of the “weaker brethren.” Yes, this “weaker brethren” card is often pulled and legalists love it. In fact, it is used most often by those who are legalist wearing the disguise of those who are free. It is not that this card is illegitimate—it is not as if there are not true weaker brethren—but it is abused and the result is slavery. I remember Chuck Swindoll talking about this saying: “Be careful, there are some people out there who are ‘professional weaker brethren.’”
....I highlighted some key words that legalists will use to manipulate the situation. “Sensitive,” “understanding,” “hang-ups,” “sake,” and most importantly, “my.” From the other side, liberty is so often sacrificed.
“I don’t go to the movies because I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble.”
Often implied translation: “You should give up your liberty too if you want to be spiritual like me.”
“I don’t ever drink alcohol because a weaker brethren might see me and fall into sin.”
Often implied translation: “I have scruples with this issue and you should too.”
“If someone saw me befriending this person, they may think I am condoning their actions. Therefore, I sacrifice my liberty for the sake of their frailty.”
Often implied translation: “I can’t be friends with people who are that sinful.”
Okay, to the passage: Romans 14. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Rom 14:1 ESV). “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” (Rom 14:1 ESV). You see, here Paul is talking about one who is “weak in faith” who has scruples over the food that someone else was eating. Some were vegetarians and did not eat meat at all (probably because of its connection to the idol temples). They thought that it was morally wrong to eat meat. Paul makes it clear that it is not wrong in and of itself: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (14:1a). However, because someone thinks it is wrong, for them it may be: “But it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (14:1). Therefore, when one of these “veggie only” guys is around, be careful or you might cause him to stumble (i.e. he will see you eating meat, and do what he believes to be wrong). However, we can take this too far. I don’t think we are obligated to bow our liberty to everyone who has a problem with our actions. A “weaker brother” is one who is truly weaker, not just one who has a misguided interpretation of things. He is weaker because he has not been educated in these issues. You must understand, he is not supposed to or expected to stay “weaker.” Eventually, he is suppose to become stronger. Unfortunately, far too often these weaker brethren realize their power and become “professional weaker brethren.”
....Think about this: If we were to give in to every so-called weaker brethren what would the result be? We would always be bowing to the least common denominator. All actions would be off-limits.
Think of all the things people have scruples with:
1. Going to movies
3. “Mixed” bathing
6. Reading Harry Potter
7. Watching Glen Beck (because he is a Mormon)
8. Reading C.S. Lewis (because he denied inerrancy)
9. Sending my kids to public schools
10. Wearing flip flops to church
11. Drinking alcohol
12. Reading any Bible other than the KJV
13. Listening to Rock music
14. Going to church on Sat rather than Sun
15. Making a purchase that others think is a sinful waste of money
16. Playing video games that have blood
17. Taking anti-depressants
18. Women wearing pants
19. Saying “oh my God”
20. Going to a “seeker” church
For all of these things, I really do have representatives in my life right now. Every one of them would be offended if I crossed their line. If I were to follow this “no-offense” policy, I would be completely immobile in my life and actions. So would you. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1 NAS). We need to be sensitive, but not to the point where we are simply fueling others’ faulty understanding and legalism. People will control you to the degree that you let them. If you allow this to go on without discernment, not only will you be immobile, but you will have lost your liberty. Lose liberty, lose the Gospel.
Read the whole article.